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Speaking with Style Substance & Clarity

Speak to the head, the heart, or the pocketbook

20190423_144540The dream of every speaker is to deliver their presentations with style, substance, and clarity. If your purpose for speaking is clear and relevant to the audience you are facing, that dream can become a reality. Your goal may be to promote a cause, improve your image or the image of your organization, sell products and services, answer questions, inspire others, or explain a process. Whatever that purpose is, it must echo throughout your presentation from the title to the end. One World Champion of Public Speaking calls that echo, the scarlet ribbon effect.  

There are four speech-types, most presenters use to achieve their purpose for speaking.  INFORMATIVE, PERSUASIVE, INSPIRATIONAL, AND ENTERTAINING. While a speaker’s primary focus may be on one of the four types, to craft an outstanding speech; the speaker should try to blend all four types seamlessly to convey their message. When your purpose is clear, connecting with your audience depends on your passion, knowledge of the topic, and delivery. Try keeping the scarlet ribbon effect as your guide, when considering your topic selection as you progress to a final decision, 

Next, you should do a Q & A to evaluate your options. Some questions to consider are:  

  • How well do I know this topic?
  • What are my available resources?  
  • How passionate am I about this purpose or story?
  • What do I want to accomplish with this speech?
  • Can I accomplish my entire purpose and speech in the allotted time?

Timing is everything when moving from being informative to persuasive, to inspirational or entertaining. As the speaker progresses through the four types, it is crucial to decide on your Speech Strategy. The speaker must sense the right time to speak to the head, the heart, or the pocketbook if a sale is your purpose. A Speech Strategy should also be an essential part of your preparation and practice. After you have successfully touched the heads and hearts of your audience, they will always be happy to join in to take part in the heavy lifting – your purpose.  

When a speaker can convince an audience to think, do something, feel differently, or make a change to their life or the life of others, that speaker has achieved the true purpose of public speaking. In that crucial moment of silence, after you have finished speaking if your audience can’t wait to take some action, rest assured you have realized your dream. You have just delivered another speech with style, substance, and clarity.  

Your I to You Ratio

An I for An I will always produce a boring speech

20191014_145242Have you spoken about yourself lately? What was your I to You Ratio? In that presentation, how many times did you use I to refer to yourself, and how many times did you use the collective You? We all use more than ten thousand words daily. Consciously or subconsciously, those two little words, I and You, influence our style of communication. Language and the words we use most often, shape our behavior, not only in our everyday conversation but also in our speeches and presentations.

When we are on the platform, some of our audience members may quietly ask themselves this question: does this presentation relate to my wants or my interest? Notice the focus is not on You the speaker; it is on “You” or “Them” the audience. The self-interest of your audience has to be validated when you are on the platform. Your work as the speaker is bringing your I’s, your accomplishments, your topic, your objectives, and the You’s, the audiences’ What’s In It For Me -Their “WIFM” into alignment.

Your ability to look at a softcopy of your speech or presentation will heighten your ability to focus on the number to times you use “I” versus “You” in your communicating. To change your “I to You Ratio,” look at each sentence and test the effect it may have on your audience if you switch from I to the collective You. When you use the word You, you are speaking to the listener’s interest also. That simple change makes You, the speaker more relevant and credible. Instantly the focus of your audience’s shifts from You, the speaker to You or Them, the audience.

We all have had to endure speeches about speakers and their accomplishments. We all have asked ourselves as audience members at some time, what about me, what about us. By no means am I saying speakers should not use I’s in their speeches or presentations. Speakers may want to keep this in mind – An I for An I will always produce a boring speech. Try using ten You’s for every one I as a rule of thumb. While ten may not always be achievable, any change in your ratio will make a vast difference in your connection with your audience, whether your purpose is to be informative or persuasive.

When your audience can relate to you, the speaker, the universal question of your audience members, is answered. That question is:- “What’s in it for me” – “Station WIFM.” Change to that station, and you may change a life. Try stepping outside of your habitual vocabulary, starting with your use of I and You. Just that simple change can make you a more engaging and authentic speaker when you are on the platform.

Word of caution, avoid using You in an accusative manner. When you use an I or You, look for ways your audience may relate to each case. Test your usage by asking, how does this “I” relate to the wants and needs of “You,” my listeners. Focus on how you use those two little words in your daily communication, and you will become a transformational presenter all because of that tiny but significant change to your “Your I to You Ratio.”

Your Body Language

Audiences always remember what you were doing when you said what you were saying!

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Keep Your Body Language Handy

When you are on the platform, your audience bases their judgment of you and your message on what they see, hear, and feel. Your Body Language is one of your handy tools for adding clarity and emphasis to your words. It is also one of your most useful instrument for convincing audiences of your sincerity, earnestness, and enthusiasm. Audiences always remember what you were doing when you said what you were saying.

Body language can fall into any of the three following categories – Facial Expressions – Gestures and Whole Body Movement. Your face expresses your feelings to the audience. Combine with your voice, gestures, and stance; you can communicate to your audience any or all of the six emotions, we all respond to as humans. Those emotions are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. Your facial expression is often the key determinant of the meaning behind the words and your message. If you are talking about a terrible tragedy but smiling, you will undoubtedly leave your audience confused. Your facial expressions should always match your spoken words.

Eye contact is especially an important part of your body language. Eye contact works both ways. It can make your audience feel comfortable or uncomfortable. In everyday life, we often associate eye contact with honesty, sincerity, interest, or nervousness — the same goes when you are on the platform. Your eye contact should be steady and not be darting from side to side or up and down. Focus on one individual until you complete your though then move to another person. Develop the technique of speaking – One to Many. Pretend you are talking to only one individual, and then shift to someone on the left or right to make your next statement. This technique makes your audience feel like you are communicating in a personal and sincere manner.

Gestures are specific body movements that reinforce a speaker’s verbal message. There are three basic types of gestures. Conventional gestures – symbols for words such as raised hand for the word “stop” or two raised fingers for the number two. Descriptive gestures – when describing, large or small, short, or tall. Then there are the Emotional gestures, which we all know only too well – clenched fists to show anger, or a huge smile, to display happiness. Your Whole Body Movement will communicate to your audience if you are confident, alert, and in command of yourself and the platform. Use your entire body to work the room with confidence and poise.

Your visual presentation plays a significant role in your speech’s success. According to many experts, more than 60 percent of our communication is nonverbal. The way you stand, your facial expressions, hand gestures, and how you use your entire body communicates more to your audience than your spoken words. When you are on the platform, it is natural to display some discomfort through nervous energy and habits which detract from your presentation. That is why you must make Using Your Body Language an essential part of preparation and practice. When you are comfortable with your body language, your speeches will resonate with your audience long after you have spoken your last words on the platform.

Tools Of The Speaking Trade

Recall and retell the stories you have collected.

justice-law-case-hearing-159832.jpegThe tools of the speaking trade are few; however, the rewards they provide are many. They are the devices we use every day – notepads, laptops, recorders, and cell phones – our everyday print and media tools. The stories they preserve are the rewards, however, no one knows when inspiration will come knocking. When your number is called to be the recorder, will you be prepared to answer, with the tools of the speaking trade?

Keeping your fun-filled stories under a separate heading in your Toolbox is a wise idea. When you are preparing any speech, although stories are essential, laughs are your currency. Laughter is one sure way to make your presentation unforgettable. The stories your Toolbox contains will often provide you with the “magic moment” for your speech. Standup comedy is for comedians. You are a speaker. Focus on recalling the funny stories in your Toolbox that perfectly fit your speech or presentation. Funny comes naturally when you focus on having fun. Don’t try to write funny. Make what you write funny.

Practice mining your stories and novel ideas as they occur. Always be prepared. Someone may be a great photographer, but without tools; a camera, they will are just another bystander. No one knows when the stars will align to present you with that special moment that you were chosen to preserve. As the chosen one to immortalize that piece of history, you must always be prepared. Some of the greatest moments in history were first recorded on napkins. Today a cellphone may be your preference. Email to self or your Toolbox if that is your medium of choice. Never leave home without a tool to preserve unexpected moments. They will provide you with valuable vignettes for all speaking occasions.

As you continue your speaking journey, keep recording and adding unexpected events to your Toolbox. They are the material that you will find is readily available when you are stuck on or off the platform. Turn those vignettes into speech brighteners – short stories that will add humor to brighten your speeches, and someone’s day. Visit your Toolbox regularly.

Recall and retell the stories you have collected. Make those stories your “isms” – Some call mine Henry-isms. Others refer to them as Miller-isms. The more you tell your stories, the better you will become at making them fit naturally into your presentations. There will always be room for one more story to gather. Don’t post them on social media. Save them for the platform. Your Toolbox may hold the key to your success someday as a master of the Speaking Trade.

Impromptu Speaking – Stand & Deliver

Sell your answer with your summary.

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Build Your Own Models – Formulas and Templates

Impromptu, Table Topic or speaking off–the- cuff are opportunities; all speakers will never be able to avoid. You will always be called upon to say a few words when you least expect. Call it what you will; speaking, thinking, on your feet or winging it; impromptu speaking is a valuable skill every speaker must develop. Impromptu speaking occasions may occur inside or outside of your workplace, social events, or even while conversing with your spouse or kids. In almost every aspect of daily life, those speaking opportunities will occur. However, if you seize every moment to speak, your impromptu skills will one-day pay-off huge dividends.

Some may ask how do you prepare for that which you cannot predict. The trick may be to avoid trying to predict – practice being in the moment. Use the skills you have developed over the years as a speaker. Use your life stories and experiences that brought you to where you are presently standing. A well-delivered response will depend significantly on how well you listen. Be attentive. Listen for keywords and your inner voice as you silently confirm what you just heard. Your inner voice will then direct you through as you proceed to deliver your answer with confidence and a style that represents who you are as a speaker. Don’t fight the feeling – that’s a battle you will often lose.

Before you begin to answer the question or state your position, pausing with a smile is always an excellent way to start. It is a fantastic way to connect with your audience. There is no time penalty for smiling once it is not overdone. Pleasantries are unnecessary – restate the question to your audience and if possible tag it with a bit of humor to begin. Quick wit is a plus; however, in a Toastmasters Table Topic setting, your allotted time is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Green at two minutes, Yellow at 2:30 and Red at 3 minutes at which time you have 30 seconds grace before disqualification for going overtime. For that reason, I recommend you use the KISS approach. Keep your response Succinct and Straightforward. Keep your responses Short and Sweet. Always leave yourself some time to summarize. Sell your answer with your summary.

To stay focused on the topic, you can use a model, formula, or template. There are many excellent samples available for all different types of questions and occasions which you can turn into acronyms. There is the PREP formula:– POINT–REASON – EXAMPLE – then sell your POINT to summarize. There is the WAG – Where I WAS where I AM where I am GOING. Again, you must summarize to close. The CER:- CAUSE – EFFECT – REMEDY is another useful model. And the PPF:– PAST – PRESENT – FUTURE is another. Stay with the rule of threes to create your own. As you continue to gain more experience and different types of impromptu speaking opportunities build your own LIBRARY.

Mark Twain said it usually takes him three weeks to write a good impromptu speech. Although Twain makes a good point, I believe it takes a lifetime of experiences to stand before an audience without any rehearsal to speak with confidence. Whether you are an experienced speaker, or it is your first time on the platform, remember you are delivering just a “few words” and not a dissertation. Your few words must have an opening, body, and conclusion. Sounds familiar – however, it is the words you choose and your delivery that will make all the difference.

Follow the basic rules of public speaking. Never apologize, do not ramble, be authentic, and be in the moment. Sell your point with your summary. Don’t wait to be chosen; don’t wait to be called, raise your hand to be selected. Stand and deliver, and soon you will master the most useful public speaking skill all speakers must excel at – Impromptu, off -the – cuff speaking.

Closing to Open

Your conclusion would often lead you to your introduction.

20190907_153155_001Preparing a new speech can, at times, be daunting. One question frequently asked is, should I work on the closing before tackling my opening? My suggestion; speakers should first prepare their foundational statement, then start working on their closing. Your conclusion would often lead you to your introduction.

A foundational statement is that central theme, the purpose statement that runs like a scarlet ribbon, thought your presentation from beginning to end. In your closing, if you are clear about what you want your audience to think, feel or do as you take your seat after speaking, your opening and body would seamlessly fall into place. I call this approach to speech writing and preparation; closing to open. Many great speakers use this approach. Do you close to open?

In a coaching session many years ago, I was introduced to this concept of closing to open. I was also reminded that when you are on the platform, your last words linger, so you should choose them wisely. My speaking coach also went on to state: – The most important minute of your speech is, the minute of silence after you have delivered your presentation. He then explained, that if in that minute of silence your audience is motivated to take some action, make a change or even think differently as a result of your talk, you have achieved what should be the objective of all good speakers, which is to be heard, understood and be repeated. Seldom, will an opening have that kind of effect on an audience.  It is your closing that will leave a long, lasting impact on your audience.

Closing to open works well with all kinds of speeches, even humorous presentations. Speakers should decide how they want to leave their audience. Leave them laughing is the most obvious choice. A pre-prepared closing can be quite handy, especially when speaking at a roast or extemporaneously. All great speakers use them, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. For example, there are times you may be the only speaker at a meeting. You may want to acknowledge that fact in your closing. Here is a prepared closing example – It is always a special privilege to be the only speaker at one of your meetings. You have been such a wonderful audience; I must leave you with this happy thought. It is never too bleak; it can always be bleaker; this has been a fantastic meeting even without, a second speaker. As mama whale always says to her baby whales, only when you are spouting, you are likely to be harpooned. So please forgive me for cutting my remarks a bit short.

Running overtime is a chronic condition that afflicts many speakers. Imagine what driving records would be if a red light had no effect on drivers. A prepared closing is a must-have for those speakers struggling with that condition. Going over time can destroy an excellent presentation. Here is some sound advice for speakers who frequently go over time, especially when they are delivering longer speeches. Have a hip pocket prepared closing. Here is a sample to use once that red light appears. – I have prepared a great deal more material for my presentation, and have much more I would like to say, but I feel the time has arrived for me conclude, and follow the old advice often given to speakers on how to avoid getting into trouble with their allotted time – Breathe, through your nose. It keeps your mouth shut. Today I invite you to join me as I take a deep breath of fresh air to close.

It is my hope that you too will try this speech writing and preparation concept – Closing to Open.

The Three Ps of Public Speaking

As you open, so too you shall close

20190908_080734Whenever I hear the mighty roar of a Harley Davidson, the sound of that engine reminds me of the three Ps of Public Speaking – Presence, Poise, and Power. Now I must confess I am not a biker. I have never even ridden on a Harley; however, I have always admired the roar and gentle hum of a well-tuned Harley. I call that sound the Harley Roar. To me, it is the personification of Presence, Poise, and Power – The Three Ps of Public Speaking.

Making your presence felt in the first minute of your speech is critical. Before uttering your first word, a power-pause, you can amplify your presence. Some speakers often refer to that pause as the great equalizer. It works for men as well as women, speakers big or small, beginner or professional. Beguile your audience attention with a smile while you lock eyes with your audience in silence. Feel the energy in the room for a moment then begin your presentation. Start, not with pleasantries but with an invitation to take your audience on a ride; one they will never forget to remember. In your opening echo your speech title. Also, let your audience know where you are heading with a carefully crafted opening statement.

A power statement establishes the roadmap of your speech. Included in your roadmap should be a hint of what your audience will receive at the end. Your opening statement should leave a lingering effect on your audience. Your opener can be an ear-catching line, a personal anecdote, or an acronym that will help your audience follow you through the presentation. Pierce the silence of the room, with a bang, then rev like the Harley Roar. Prepare, practice, and polish your opening, then remove some of that polish, as you get comfortable your content.

Power can manifest itself in many different ways. It can be how you dress, how you speak, even in your moments of silence, you can project power. How you dress for the platform speaks volumes about you and your message. There are times to be casual and times to be formal. Think of the statement you are making as you choose your attire for each appearance. Make what you wear on the platform your an integral part of your branding.

As you develop, adopt a style that audiences will identify with you as a speaker. Make your points with power. Make them power points that you can recall in your summation. If you can embellish the point of your presentation with a quote, make that quote one that is relevant to your topic. Deliver it with poise and power or the reverence it deserves. A quotation carefully planted in the middle of your speech creates a subtle change of pace to your presentation.

Open to close. Everything in life comes full circle. I don’t want to sound biblical, however, as you open, so too you shall close. Signal to your audience that you are about to end with a salutation. Begin your closing by recalling your power statements, power points, your power quotes, and request your audience to take some action. Resist the urge to add new content. If you do, you run the risk of confusing your audience with a double ending. Stop speaking! Close your presentation with Presence, Poise, and Power; the three Ps of Public Speaking.